Emotional Abbott claims fourth U.S. Championships crown

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BOSTON — Jeremy Abbott knew that when he skated off the ice at TD Garden Sunday he would be crying.

“I was going to cry today – good or bad,” he said to reporters.

For Abbott, he wiped tears of joy off his face as he stepped off U.S. ice one last time, set to retire after this season

The 28-year-old backed up a solid short program Sunday afternoon at the U.S. Championships, holding on for first place and seemingly booking himself a spot in his second straight Olympics.

It was teenager Jason Brown who stole the show earlier, skating to “Riverdance” and landing eight triple jumps and finishing to a standing ovation from the crowd before he was even done.

Ashley Wagner named to Sochi Olympic team

The 19-year-old Brown, who doesn’t have a quad, jumped his way from third to second and will be in the running for the second of two spots the U.S. men are allotted for the Sochi Olympics.

The official team will be announced Sunday night at a press conference at TD Garden.

Abbott, who is coached by former world champion Yuka Sato, cut it close to the one-minute time period skaters are given before starting his free skate, only realizing he needed to begin because the crowd began counting the seconds down. But when he did, he got underway strongly, landing a quad toeloop.

“I have to thank the audience,” Abbott said, laughing. “Without them I would have been disqualified.”

When he finished, Abbott spent a little more time on the ice, savoring the situation.

“I was trying to take it all in,” he said in regards to standing at center ice. “I knew that I skated well enough to win and this was my last national performance. I wanted to try and take a second and appreciate the audience and all the support I’ve had through the years.”

The Colorado native had set an American record in the short program with a score of 99.86. In the free skate, he scored a 174.41, which was lower than Brown’s 182.61, though Abbott held on to win by four points overall.

Max Aaron, champion in 2013, finished third behind Brown by 10 points. The former hockey player could land a place on the team if the selection committee sees his experience – he was in the top eight at the World Championships in March – as having prepared him better for Sochi.

But Brown made his case this season, scoring a medal at the Paris Grand Prix and then a silver here.

“I really have no control at this point whether I’m on the team or not,” Brown told reporters at a press conference. “I didn’t allow myself to consider the Olympics until halfway through this season. Over time I’ve gotten more and more confident that this could be a reality, and each event this year has helped that.”

Abbott, who won the U.S. Championships in 2009, 2010 and 2012 before this year, has struggled on the international stage, placing ninth at the 2010 Vancouver Games and finishing outside the top six in three out of four World Championships appearances.

“Four years ago everything was just about being on the team,” Abbott said. “It was like jumping into an abyss. But after the 2012 season we put a lot of work into our training and into our structure. I believe in it – it’s been paying off very slow and steady.”

Results
1. Jeremy Abbott – 274.27
2. Jason Brown – 270.08
3. Max Aaaron – 260.44
4. Josh Farris – 248.06

Noah Lyles runs personal best and is coming for Usain Bolt’s world record

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Noah Lyles ran a personal-best time in the 60m on Saturday, then reaffirmed record-breaking intentions for the 100m and, especially, the 200m, where Usain Bolt holds the fastest times in history.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, is a past world indoor 60m champion and has a better start than Lyles, which is crucial in a six-second race.

But on Saturday, Lyles ran down Bromell and shaved four hundredths off his personal best. It bodes well for Lyles’ prospects come the spring and summer outdoor season in his better distances — the 100m and 200m.

“This is the moment I’ve been working, like, seven years for,” he said. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Last July, Lyles broke Michael Johnson‘s 26-year-old American record in the 200m, winning the world title in 19.31 seconds. Only Bolt (19.19) and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster.

Lyles has since spoken openly about targeting Bolt’s world record from 2009.

How does an indoor 60m time play into that? Well, Lyles said that his success last year sprung from a strong indoor season, when he lowered his personal best in the 60m from 6.57 to 6.56 and then 6.55. He followed that by lowering his personal best in the 200m from 19.50 to 19.31.

He believes that slicing an even greater chunk off his 60m best on Saturday means special things are on the horizon come the major summer meets — the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July (on the same Oregon track where he ran the American 200m record) and the world championships in Budapest in August.

After focusing on the 200m last year, Lyles plans to race both the 100m and the 200m this year. He has a bye into the 200m at world championships, so expect him to race the 100m at USATF Outdoors, where the top three are in line to join world champ Fred Kerley on the world team.

Lyles’ personal best in the 100m is 9.86, a tenth off the best times from Kerley, Bromell and 2019 World 100m champ Christian Coleman. Bolt is in his own tier at 9.58.

Also Saturday, Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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